By A. Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON Shaquille O'Neal is out. Two-thirds of the Boston Celtics team wasn't here when the season started.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has heard all the excuses and justifications for why the C's may come out flat for tonight's game.
"We're ready. We're fine."
We'll see if Rivers' words are just talk, something at least one Celtics player probably did a bit too much of recently.
Glen Davis was asked about defending New York's Amar'e Stoudemire, one of the NBA's top scorers this past season.
"It's really not that hard," Davis said. "I give him too much credit. I have to make him react to me, not me react to him."
Davis' comments eventually made their way back to Stoudemire.
"Me and Glen Davis (are) on two different platforms," Stoudemire told reporters. "He's a solid player, does a great job for his ball club. But we are on two different platforms."
As a former player and veteran NBA head coach, Rivers has heard his share of trash talk.
"Listen, it's all talk. I don't like it; never liked it,' Rivers said. "But it's going to happen. And it's all talk at the end of the day."
Rivers said it is something that is talked about some, but added, "I'm more focused on playing basketball. At the end of the day, if you can talk and play, that's good. If you can't talk and play, than stop talking. We'll find out who does what."
Defensive numbers misleading
The Celtics defense was among the league's best a year ago. And this year, they gave up a league-low 91.1 points per game which was an improvement on last season's team which gave up 95.6 points per game.
Rivers recognizes the improvement, but he comes into tonight's game concerned about his team's play in the fourth quarter.
Boston lost 26 games this season, 10 of which came in games in which they were either ahead or tied going into the fourth.
"We've had some bad fourth quarters defensively," Rivers acknowledged. "That's something in the New Year (the playoffs), we have to be better."
Rivers said that along with Shaquille O'Neal (right calfAchilles tendon), Avery Bradley and Carlos Arroyo will be on the inactive roster tonight.